I often turn to google for the answers on all kinds of things… how to get the perfect soft boiled egg, what other TV show have I seen that actress on, is it horizontal or vertical lines that are more flattering?… but there are some things for which I’ve found google not to be all that helpful with. ‘Self Care’ is one of those things. Google ‘self care’ and you’ll find inspirational quotes and analogies encircled with pretty flowers saying things like; always take care of yourself first.., Put your own gas mask on before assisting others.., or you can’t pour from an empty cup... Search ‘self-care activities’ and you’ll find; take a bubble bath, get a pedicure, take a mid-day nap, and even...declutter your house?! That last one sounds particularly Relaxing-Not!
Mums and dads are already feeling under pressure, add the pressure to ‘practice self care’ to the mix and you get frustrated parents who can feel like this is yet another area they are failing in; “which one is it?!Put my child first or fill up my own cup?! And when am I supposed to fit in putting myself first? There’s no time to leave the house for a pedicure between the feeds and the settling and the washing...”
It’s not surprising people, ESPECIALLY parents might not respond favourably when told ‘you Need to take time for yourself’.’
If you like the idea of Self Care but don’t know where to start because googles not proving to be particularly helpful- here’s an analogy that doesn’t involve cups or air travel, followed by some ideas that will make enjoying self-care more workable.
Think of a tree and its root system. If the tree has thick, deep, widespread roots beneath the ground, these help to keep what’s above ground upright and strong. Think of those big strong trees people tie swings on, when someone is swinging on the tree, the roots stop the tree from toppling over, same for when strong cyclonic winds come. Now picture yourself as a tree, considering self-care as growing and strengthening your root system, so that when others (children, partner, friends, family, colleagues...) cling to you for support they won’t be flung off because you topple over, or when difficult situations are swept your way it will be easier to remain strong and upright.
It’s a much nicer analogy than a gas mask and far more achievable because we don’t have to tend to ourselves first to the exclusion of others. It’s about looking after yourself whilst simultaneously going about your life- the root system is growing at the same time the leaves die off and regrow, the weather is changing around it and people are coming and going from the tree, climbing, swinging, sitting underneath...
Self care is not selfish. The tree with roots clearly demonstrates the benefits of self-care for those around us, so what are some ways that we can incorporate the practice of self-care into our day to benefit ourselves, our Children and everyone around us.
Ideas for self care
Contrary to popular belief, self-care doesn’t have to be BY YOURSELF. What a relief this is for new parents who are literally tied to their baby! Baby wearing or a pram are fantastic tools which allow you to enjoy two of the greatest self-care practices going around- nature and gentle exercise with a walk, an activity that also benefits baby. Meditation is another effective form of self-care but it doesn’t have to be sitting cross legged for lengthy periods. There are many forms of Active Meditation that you can do whilst simultaneously tending to many of your babies needs such as feeding.
But sometimes you just need your own space or ability to do something for yourself. during these times those well intentioned people who tell parents to ‘take time for yourself’ would be much more helpful if they offered just a little bit more like; “What is it that I can help you with that will allow you to do this and when does it suite for me to provide this help?” Because here’s the kicker.., in order to have the time for self-care, there will be times when you need help from others to make it possible.
Do whatever it is that make YOU feel good and don’t feel pressure from others. We are all SO different and what makes us feel our best is different for everyone. Make a list of the things (big and small) that you like doing for self-care. Think of some things you can do with your baby, and what you need help to achieve from people around you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help- people are often very willing to but don’t always know the best way to go about it.
For heaps more strategies around self-care come and see me at The Perinatal S P A C E, a visit that is a form of self-care in its own right.